Lecture: “The Eighty Dollar Champion: A Horse, a Man, and the Dream That Inspired a Nation,” Elizabeth Letts and Harry de Leyer, Friday, August 27, 2 p.m., National Sporting Library & Museum, 102 The Plains Rd., Middleburg, Va. 20117, http://www.nsl.org/eletts.html
Free, RSVP to Elizabeth Tobey, 540-687-6542 x 11 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Author Elizabeth Letts, of Chadds Ford, Pa., and horse rider and trainer Harry de Leyer of Charlottesville, Va., will give an informal roundtable discussion about Snowman, the $80 horse that became a national champion show jumper in the 1950’s. This free program will be held at the National Sporting Library & Museum in Middleburg, Va., on Friday, August 27 at 2 p.m. For more information, visit www.nsl.org.
The beloved show jumper is now the subject of a full-length book, “The Eighty Dollar Champion,” by Elizabeth Letts, forthcoming from Ballantine Books this summer. The book, based in part, on Letts’ research as a John H. Daniels Fellow at the National Sporting Library & Museum, is a celebration of Snowman and an exploration of the factors and forces that shaped the sport of show jumping in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, a time that some refer to as The Golden Age of Show Jumping. The Daniels Fellowship sponsors scholars and researchers working on projects related to the Library’s collections on horse and field sports. The lecture is part of the Library’s Fellows’ Roundtable series where Daniels Fellows discuss their research-in-progress.
In February 1956, Harry de Leyer arrived late at the auction in New Holland, Pa. He had gone there to look for a quiet school horse for his pupils. When he arrived there were only a few stragglers left– horses that had already been loaded onto the truck bound for the slaughterhouse. Something about one horse caught his eye and he asked the driver to unload that horse so he could take a closer look. The big gray was dirty, thin, and missing a shoe, but de Leyer paid $80 dollars for him. Maybe with a bit of luck, the gray would clean up and make a good lesson horse. When he got the horse home, de Leyer discovered that the horse had a gift– he was a natural born jumper. Eighteen months later, the pair stood under the spotlights at Madison Square Garden: Snowman had captured the National Open Jumper Championship and, along the way, stolen the hearts of people across America. Now famous, the ex-plowhorse became the subject of two children’s books, appeared on the Johnny Carson show, and toured both Europe and the United States giving exhibitions.